Reading with Felicity: Favourite books up to age one

Happy World Book Day!

As I’ve blogged about before, after the very early enjoyment of high contrast books and rhyming books, Felicity’s bookworm impulses all but disappeared (aside from noisy books of course) until the age of about 7-8 months. Then suddenly she seemed to twig that books were fun and would sit down and enjoy stories with us.

Here are a few of her favourites up to the age of one, that I haven’t shared already in my Reading with Felicity series. I’ve been meaning to share these for ages, so what better occasion than World Book Day?


Puffin Peter by Petr Horacek
We’ve noticed Felicity goes through phases of being obsessed with different books which mysteriously become the biggest love of her life before she completely switches off from them again. So far Puffin Peter has been the longest lasting love so far, although it is starting to wane now as it is quite a long book for her. I’m slightly in love with this book too – Horacek was a new author and illustrator to me when I picked this up in the library (because it had a puffin on and who doesn’t love puffins?!), and I’m a big fan now. The illustrations are gorgeous and I’m hoping the plot is sufficiently engrossing we’ll be sharing this together for a good few more years. It’s also the nearest a picture book gets to an introduction to bird identification so Will is a big fan too! There’s even a whale so we get to practise our Dory from Finding Nemo whale voices. More seriously this is a very clever book which is touching and engaging as well as gently exploring how much using the right words matter.

Global Babies published by the Global Fund for Children
A classic of the first books genre is the ‘photos of baby faces’ book, and a lot incorporate photos of babies with other basic plot or rhymes (see This Little Baby below). Before Felicity was even born I bought this lovely little book. It’s very simple, with photographs of babies from many different cultures across the world who are all ‘beautiful, special and loved’. I thought it was a lovely way to introduce the idea that there is a whole world beyond our white Western bubble. Also, without getting too philosophical over baby books, frankly these days I think anything that teaches the concept that wherever you are from in the world every human has a lot more in common than anything that divides us is very valuable. She really really likes it as well, which is fairly crucial!

Orla Kiely’s Colours and Numbers
Will said I was being ridiculously pretentious when I bought these cheap at an NCT sale. Then Felicity loved them so I say it is never too young to introduce mid-century inspired design. They’re lovely, traditional picture books with a colour or number to a page, but with Kiely’s trademark patterns and eye for colour. They are very enjoyable objects to handle as well – board books but with lovely thick covers too so they feel like a proper grown up book.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes by Annie Kubler.
I don’t think I grasped the point of books that illustrated songs or rhymes – couldn’t you just sing the song? But this is very much enjoyed when we sing it, and the pictures help show where to point on your face and body. Having a book with lyrics in it also allows a pre-verbal baby to request a bit of singing, as they can point to the book and know a terrible performance from Mummy or Daddy will be forthcoming.

Tabby McTat by Julia Donaldson
It is a rule that any of these lists I write has to have a Julia Donladson book on it. Tabby McTat was a great loved favourite (in fact this reminds me I need to get it out of the Library again). It’s all about how Fred the busker’s cat gets lost but finds a home and family along the way.


Penguin by Polly Dunbar
This has a slightly bizarre plot involving a silent penguin, a lion and an epic tantrum. I enjoy its slightly quirky humour and this is one of those books that makes me glad we offer Felicity a wide range of books as I could never have predicted how much she would love this at quite a young age. As with Puffin Peter, I think the plot about exploring strong emotion and disappointment (and not, er, firing penguins into outer space) will mean this comes back as a favourite when she’s a bit older too.

My Beak, Your Beak by Melanie Walsh
The lovely Jennifer from Pastry & Purls bought this for Felicity and my goodness it’s such a hit. Thank you Jennifer! It links together different types of animals, both everyday and more exotic, and notes their similarities, ‘penguins live in the snowy South Pole, robins live in the garden, both have pointy beaks’. We have had finger points to this quite regularly consistently since she got it, so I’m quite sad it’s gone out of print as clearly it is one of those ones that just appeals really visually to her.

This Little Baby by Sandra Lousada
Another one that’s sadly gone out of print, this simple black and white rhyming board book with photographs of babies doing a variety of things has been a regular book we enjoy sharing for ages now. Felicity has started to say ‘hello’ to the baby waving at the beginning and gets very sad at the crying baby ‘making lots of noise’. She loves the end when she sees her own reflection in the mirror and we say ‘and this is the baby I love the best’ with big cuddles.

Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr
I was surprised Felicity would sit through the whole of this book as Mog is quite long, it must be something to do with her great love of cats! I grew up with Mog and indeed this copy was actually one I used to read at my Gran’s house. If you’re not familiar with Mog then I thoroughly recommend getting hold of one of the books in the series. This is the original story about egg-loving, forgetful Mog, who manages to accidentally become a crime busting super cat!

That’s Not My Hedgehog, published by Usborne
We only have a few of this very popular and long running series, and this one about a prickly hedgehog was her favourite at her childminders just before her first birthday. She really likes the texture of the prickly hedgehog at the end.

I hope you had a lovely World Book Day. I’m so looking forward to when she’s a bit older and I can help Felicity choose a fun costume. I’m sure parents of older children will correct me about how differently I’ll feel when the pressure is on to come up with something she’ll love!


The no interest phase and noisy baby books 

Straight after I started my blog series about sharing books with my baby daughter – Reading with Felicity – she pretty much lost all interest in books. She was about four to five months old and from chatting to other mums I knew this wasn’t true of all babies. In fact around the same age some of my friends were saying that their babies were starting to snuggle up during their bedtime stories – enjoying the cuddle time even if not getting to grips with the intricacies of picture book plots.

Snuggling up for bedtime stories is practically the pinnacle of my idea of contented motherhood so I was a little sad that Felicity was more interested in whacking stuff and, at sixth months, crawling everywhere. Any attempt to read a picture book was met with firm wriggles and trying to escape from my lap, over enthusiastic readings of rhyming books that she loved when really little were not as fun as trying out her new crawling skills. Bedtime stories got borderline hilarious in their lack of interest from her. We’d decided to read the same book every night before bed, partly so if she really did hate it as part of getting ready for bed (sleeping has never been her favourite thing), then it would hopefully just be Goodnight Moon that she disliked rather than books generally. This was not an unmitigated success. Perhaps the lowest point of book before bedtime was reached when Will had to read Goodnight Moon whilst (gently!)  holding on to her ankle to stop her crawling off, whilst she continued determinedly trying to head in the other direction. This really wasn’t the image I had of lovingly sharing books with my daughter.

Usborne's Noisy Animals

This phase did pass (thank goodness) but, even at her most disinterested, books that mooed, sang and generally made lots of noise when pressing buttons were still a winner. Felicity’s particular favourite was Usborne’s Noisy Animals, illustrated by Stephen Cartwright, which I’m pretty sure I now know by heart: ‘This is Mrs Boot with her children…’ And it is still loved even now she’s enjoying all sorts of different types of book. It’s entertained her on car journeys, pressing one of the noise buttons would attract her enough to crawl over to me even in the midst of mischief making and above all she would sit and look and sometimes turn the pages when nothing else could keep her in one place.

It may not be the most beautifully illustrated or original children’s book (although finding the Usborne duck on every page is a classic of children’s literature in my opinion) but sharing it with her really did help us introduce her to the idea that reading books are fun, as well as allowing her to get an idea of how a book physically works by turning the pages and listening to us read the words.


Christmas books for babies and toddlers – alternative advent calendar inspiration

In the happy world of Pinterest I have seen many ideas for ‘alternative advent calendars’; countdowns to Christmas that you can either buy or make that go beyond the standard chocolate affairs. One idea I really liked was of sharing a different book on each day of advent. Combining this with my slight fear of the Elf on a Shelf phenomenon (it can’t just me that finds that elf creepy looking?!), I was inspired to think of 24 books I’d share with Felicity that would appeal to babies and toddlers. Lots are about Christmas, but some are just about snow and winter more widely too.  There’s one for every day in the countdown to Christmas from the first of December, but I think this year we may use the list more as a starting point to get some good idea for Christmas and wintry themed reads. I’ll definitely not be organised enough to wrap them up and display them in a suitably Pinterest friendly way, but I have enjoyed getting into the Christmas spirit by discovering some new classics. There are a few of the obvious big Christmas hitters on the list (like The Grinch and The Night Before Christmas), but I have saved some suitable for older children to look at in later years as well. Also, it would be mega expensive if you were to buy all these new – there’s no reason you can’t  get them from the Library to enjoy during Advent. Our local libraries have already got a special section in devoted to Christmas books out and ready to go. Happy Christmassy reading!

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Any list of children’s books has to include a Julia Donaldson in my opinion. Stick Man is our favourite Christmas related one (Santa makes an appearance). The rhyming words are Julia Donaldson’s with Axel Scheffler’s illustrations – the same team behind The Gruffalo. I got a little bit too invested in poor Stick Man’s quest to return to his family, it seems very emotional for a children’s book!  

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore. ‘All through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’. No Christmas book list is complete without this classic rhyming book. I can still remember the illustrations in my childhood copy so clearly, and there are dozens of different picture book editions to choose from. If doing the advent calendar – surely this is the only choice for the Christmas Eve book?

Lucy and Tom at Christmas by Shirley Hughes. This is another from my childhood – Shirley Hughes is the only person honoured enough to be on this  list twice. Possibly a little bit grown up for younger toddlers, but Hughes classic illustrations are beautiful and capture the gentle magic of a home based Christmas for young children. One to treasure for years and years.

That’s Not My Elf by Fiona Watt, illustrated by Rachel Wells. There are many Christmassy/winter options to choose from in this ubiquitous Usborne touchy-feely series. Including Not My Reindeer, Santa, Polar Bear and Penguin. Felicity is still a big fan of these as they are very easy for little hands to turn pages as well as feeling the different textures on each page.

A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Alan Marks, with sounds. Felicity has always been a fan of a noisy book, and this combines a reselling of the classic Dickens tale,with sound effects. I really want to have a tradition of a reading the original aloud when she’s a bit older (we’ll see how that goes) this is a good starting point.

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. This is possibly a little old for most toddlers, but a great book to save for years to come. Especially when combined with the TV ‘Walking in the Air’ version, which I’m very much hoping will include the David Bowie introduction I remember from when I was little after his sad death earlier in the year. For those not familiar with this 80s childhood classic, it’s all about a snowman coming to life one magical night.

Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star by Petr Horacek. Horacek was a new to me author until recently, but I’m such a big fan now (as is Felicity). Something about his illustrations seems to capture her imagination and I love his slightly quirky stories too. Silly Suzy Goose is one of our favourites, so I’m looking forward to this Christmas story featuring Suzy.

Mog’s Christmas or Mog’s Christmas Calamity by Judith Kerr. Although not usually tolerant of books for slightly older children (the books are quite long), Mog is magic and keeps Felicity absorbed, even reading all the words. So I had to include the Christmas adventures of the Thomas family and their ‘nice but not very clever’ cat Mog.

Winter Garden by Ruth Brown. I’ve mentioned before about our love for Brown’s A Dark Dark Tale. This book is more specifically designed for toddlers but contains the same quality of gorgeous illustrations. It looks at all the creatures and wildlife that visit a garden in winter, perfect for cozying up with indoors whilst looking out at a wintery garden.

Norman: The Slug Who Saved Christmas by Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet. Possibly a bit long for very little ones, but the bright illustrations (and glitter) more than make up for this in Felicity’s eyes. Also a book where the slug is the hero, and snails are used as replacement reindeer, is definitely a nice change of pace for a Christmas story.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds. This is a great bit of respite from what can feel like the tide of plastic uber-consumerist Christmas. Disappointed with his one small  present on Christmas morning, Roland wants something bigger. This is obviously not the point of Christmas, as is then demonstrated in a modern gentle morality tale.

Spot’s First Christmas by Eric Hill. For ages she wasn’t bothered, then almost overnight Felicity was won over by the institution that is Spot the Dog. Much like Mog, there is some sort of magic dust on Spot which make him and his groundbreaking lift-the-flap format irresistible to little ones.

Dear Santa by Rod Campbell. This is a Christmas version of the bestselling Dear Zoo, with the zoo animals being replaced with presents from Santa.  We’re already getting a lot of finger points to read this again and again here, even if it is still November!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr Seuss. I’m simply not worthy of providing an introduction to this classic. Like a lot of Seuss it may be a bit long for younger toddlers – though Dr Seuss’ rhymes are great for non-moving little babies – but is such a classic it was one I felt should be on our bookcase.

Dream Snow by Eric Carle. My Hungry Caterpillar needs no introduction. There is just something about Carle’s illustrations that both please parents, and delight and captivate children. So I just had to include this, his Christmas offering, on this list.

Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan. This is a take on the nativity story, from the perspective of the Inn Keeper, who just wants to get to sleep but keeps being woken up by Mary and Joseph, some Shepherds and a very bright star. This is a clever book that retells a the story in such a way that it would work for Christians, but also as a good introduction to the Christmas story for everyone, without overtly concentrating on the religious aspects.

Alfie’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes. Another from Hughes, there’s something about her illustrations that capture the liveliness of children so well. I also particularly like them because they feel like real families rather than stereotypes. Lucy and Tom I remember from my own childhood but I never discovered the Alfie books – so I’m looking forward to looking at the illustrations in this book with Felicity.

First Snow by Bomi Park. This is from a Korean illustrator and I really like it as a change from looking at snow from a very rural perspective – this has scenes set in an obviously urban environment. The illustrations are unusual and stunning and immediately caught my eye as something very different from many children’s books.

Little Christmas Tree by Jessica Courtney-Tickle. If you want a more sophisticated lift-the-flap book then this is an excellent choice. It also emphasises the natural world in its depiction of wildlife gradually decorating the little Christmas tree. A book that is likely to be picked up for longer than other more primary-colour based lift-the-flap offerings.

The Red Sledge by Lita Judge. This is a lovely looking book. I want to get Felicity a little red pixie hood because of it. This book has no words aside from onomatopoeic sounds that help tell the story, so it’s a good book to have lots of fun reading by putting a lot of effort into the telling. There are some wonderfully expressive noises to represent the animals getting up to high jinks on the borrowed sledge.

Santa’s Busy Day (Bloomsbury Publishing). Mirrors are always a big success with Felicity, she’s a big fan of her own reflection! This book has a mirror at the end as we see Santa’s lead up to Christmas. Bloomsbury’s children’s books have really impressed me since having Felicity, so I’m hoping this goes down as well as some of their other board books we’ve tried!

Usborne Touchy-Feely: The Nativity  or Nativity Flap Book (also Usborne). I think one traditional retelling of the nativity is a must for every Christmas book list, even if not for religious reasons, it provides a background to the traditions of Christmas. There are literally hundreds of different versions. I’m still looking for one that I really like in the more traditional picture book format – my ideal one would include non Westernised/caucasian depictions of the family – but these two are very good for this age group (even if Mary is blonde in one – grrr).

Bear & Hare: Snow! by Emily Gravett. I have a big soft spot for the work of Emily Gravett, and this is a lovely feeling (as well as looking) book. In the hardback edition at the least the pages are thick and really show off the lovely almost watercolour illustrations very well. The plot is all about how Hare really likes snow, but Bear isn’t quite sure to begin with.

Twelve Days of Christmas by Alison Jay. I’ve been surprised by how much Felicity loves books that you can sing to her, so I think she’d love us singing the Twelve Days of Christmas accompanied by the gorgeous illustrations. There are lots of other options as well including noisy Christmas song books that when you press the button play the tune, or Usborne do a collection of some of the most well known carols. As with the nativity books, there is something in this genre to suit every taste.

And that’s the end of the list – I’d love to know if you feel I’ve missed off any absolute Christmas must haves for very little children!

24+ Christmas books for babies and toddlers. Book Advent calendar ideas

Bonding and books – reading with Felicity

I always say to people who ask what it’s like being a parent that it is a world of extremes – you’re either bursting with love or want to jump out the window and run away with the overwhelming nature of it all. A few weeks ago I had a bad parenting day. Felicity was going through a clingy and upset phase, I think down to a mixture of teeth and frustration at being able to toddle a bit but not really walking well. She was similarly grumpy just before she got the proper hang of crawling. We’d been to get her first shoes in the morning, which wasn’t a roaring success – she hates shops if not in a trolley where she can peer about – and randomly having her feet prodded did not endear her to shoe shopping either.

I then made the error of deciding to pop into Toys R Us next door to look at potential first birthday presents. I assumed they’d have a little section, like our Early Learning Centre does, where she would be able to have a little crawl and, you know, play with some toys. How naive. I hadn’t grasped the whole ‘it’s a massive warehouse with too much stimulation with nothing she can actually play with to maximise parental stress and likelihood of impulse buys and therefore our profits’ element of the shopping experience.

By the time we came out Felicity was so tetchy and fresh air starved that I decided I couldn’t face half an hour of screaming if I stuffed her into the car so went to get a coffee for me and a snack for her before heading home. This then meant we were late for her lunch, then she wouldn’t nap and was generally quite cross about what a terrible day I’d given her. I was very tired and stressed by the time she had another meltdown when I gently dared to try to get her to nap as she was overtired and unhappy.

I’m sure a lot of parents can identify with these days when there’s nothing overtly wrong, just timings have been off, the baby didn’t want to do what you wanted/needed them to participate in. After all, they get no say on whether they feel like going shoe shopping. You haven’t quite got the magic ratio of doing stuff/going out/food/sleep right. As a result you’re worn down by constant demands on you and feeling like you’re failing as a parent as all you want is to have five minutes of peace. By this point they’re so overtired peace is the last thing they can give you. These days are fairly rare for us but still draining when they arrive, always on a day when I’m least equipped to deal with it as well!

This particular day did get better though  because after failed nap attempt number three I reached for a book: A Dark, Dark Tale by Ruth Brown. I inherited this copy from my grandmother as she used to read it to me when I was a little girl. I’d put it on Felicity’s book display although thought it would be one for when she’s a bit older. Will had picked it up after she pointed at the cover and discovered she loved it.

If you’re not familiar with the book it follows a black cat around lots of dark creepy places only to discover (spoiler alert) a very adorable mouse all tucked up in bed at the end. I find it completely charming and it’s a great slightly spooky but not really scary book for Halloween as well. I think it’s generally classed as a book for older children although the one sentence every page turn works well for Felicity as the story moves quickly and there is a lot to look at thanks to the beautiful illustrations. She also gets the point of the plot- the first time Will read it and she reached the end and saw the mouse she squealed with delight. She still grins and points when we get to the last page.

All this is a very long winded way of taking a moment to appreciate how magical sharing books can be for both babies and parents. On this day, still sitting in her darkened ready-for-nap-bedroom we must have read that story five times over as she gleefully squealed at the end. Seeing her enjoy it so much immediately relaxed me as she was happy again, and sharing something I’d loved as a child is a special moment of bonding. The whole day went from tiring and stressful to joyful and content.

I wanted to record it on this space as this isn’t something I explicitly realised would happen when sharing books with my child. I think a lot of people would say they read for pleasure, escape and distraction – and children need that too. I obviously had it in the back of my head that I wanted her to enjoy reading. But I also know I’ve been guilty of thinking too much about the utilitarian and educational ‘you can learn a, b and c’ side of things. It was a much needed reminder of the magic of reading.

August, already? 

July has whizzed by at a quite scary rate. Home after our long trip, there has been much catching up to do, both with friends and starting to do stuff on the house for the first time in ages. As a result life has felt pleasantly busy and full, without seeming too manic. I have also been starting to look towards the end of my maternity leave in September/October, and have been  discussing plans to return to work on a part time basis. Simply because I feel like I’m counting down towards the end everything has obviously sped up.

Felicity is becoming more fun every day, learning new things all the time and properly interacting with everything around her, which is a joy to see. We’ve spent lots of time outdoors in the glorious recent weather, and she loves her paddling pool. She has even started napping in her cot (rather than on me or in pram, sling or car), it just seemed to happen one day and having around two hours to myself is amazing. It’s also made her happier too as I can get on with things whilst she naps rather than her getting bored whilst I do the things that have to be done like ensuring we have some clean clothes and food to eat. It’s also made me more relaxed about sleep at night as I just have to have faith that, like naps, it will just suddenly click and get better. Fingers crossed naps are a fixture for a little while at least, as it will help when she’s at the childminder as well.

I had a bit of a freak out when going to meet our lovely childminder for the first time, at the idea of leaving her and whether she will be OK. It was all a bit illogical as we’d talked and talked about the right thing for us as a family and decided this was it. Logically I know it is better to start her at the childminder earlier for a very gradual introduction to the new environment away from home. Everything I’ve read says it’s best for her to have a really gentle handover, to ensure she’s comfortable before I leave her alone for the first time, but at the same time it feels like I should still have two months, not be thinking about ‘abandoning’ her already. Aside from these wobbles I’m actually looking forward to getting back into the swing of work so everything is crossed that she settles quickly. The two times we’ve been round to the childminders she’s been off harassing the older children without a backward glance, so hopefully that will continue.

Our social calendar has calmed down, with only one wedding and a Christening since my last catch up post(!)It has been the most lovely summer of celebrating friend’s happiness. There is also the perk of getting to go on mini breaks in nice places – most recently York. Sure I’ll talk about this in more detail at some point (when I get caught up with all the other travel posts I want to write…)

Wandering round York was also a chance to catch some Pokemon – yes I sadly wanted to be in on the latest craze. I tend to have limited attention span for these things but wanted to understand what Will was on about – I swear I had five minute conversations with him where I had no idea what he was on about until I started playing too. I have to say in terms of seeing the effects of it out and about I have never known any – I guess you could call it cultural – event like it. Once you get your eye in you see people wandering around slowly staring at their phones and doing the characteristic upward swipe all the time. Or saying random things like ‘there’s a growleth somewhere around here’. It might all be some distraction tchnique and the world is about to end while we’re all too busy trying to catch cartoons – but at least it’s something a bit happier right?!

As it’s July 2016 I also have to mention – the new Harry Potter play scripts have come out! I have just reread all the books again so it was very exciting to get a new part of the story. I was also incredibly lucky we were heading back from York so I had a car journey to read it in, I was sure I would never get the opportunity to read it in a day, as I did with all the novels, with Felicity rampaging about. Long car journey whilst baby napped saved the day though. I did enjoy it although it isn’t as good as the main seven books (no spoilers here beyond that!), the play itself must be an amazing spectacle though so if you’ve got tickets you are in for a treat, and I’m jealous!

First time rhymes with a young baby – Reading with Felicity 

This is the second in a series about discovering books and reading with my baby daughter Felicity. This is the first of what I’m sure will be many on sharing rhymes and poetry with kids.

Rhymes and rhyming poetry are known to be really good for children’s development. There are lots of reasons for this, not least that seeing patterns in words before you can read and write can only help when figuring out phonics later on, and anyone who has sung ‘Hickory, Dickory, Dock’ over and over again (and again and again…) can easily see how much children love repetition and rhythm. So it’s a win win really. I won’t go too much into the background of all this but if you’re interested there is a great page on the Bookstart website going into it in more depth. 

I was surprised though how early Felicity started responding to poetry. From the age of about two-four months one of her very favourite things was to listen to me or her Dad read some quite complex rhyming poetry. She responded with such glee, and her concentration was totally fixed for quite long periods. Other Mum friends have reported the same experience with their children. She is still enjoying rhyming books at 8 months, but she does also try and eat the book as well so I’m not sure if it’s the rhyming she’s enjoying now or just ‘discovering’ books more generally!

I’d really reccomend trying out reading poetry to your young baby, not least because you can do it just from a phone if you don’t have any poetry books or are out and about. Unlike some developmental activities you’re supposed to do reading off my phone felt doable for me as a very tired new Mum. Some absolute classics are Jabberwocky, The Owl and the Pussycat and my favourites, the rhyming poems from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot.

Alternatively you can use some actual children’s books which can see you through from early babyhood to being school age – I’m keeping the ‘school age’ definition deliberately vague, I’ll find out when we get there when Felicity starts outgrowing things! I’m currently eyeing up the illustrated version of Macavity the Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot, mentioned above. I’ve loved the Hairy Maclary books since my own childhood, they are so enjoyable to read for adults too. I am too old for Julia Donaldson, author of the fantastic Gruffalo books and Room on the Broom (amongst many others), when I was little but I’m loving discovering them now with Felicity. And the Dr Suess books are obviously such classics that they need no introduction. All have brilliant rhymes and rhythm. It’s quite telling that all these are classics, showing how instinctively the youngest children take to rhyme.

I’m sure part of the attraction for the littlest babies is just listening to an adult talking to them, and for this I found rhyming books like Dr Seuss really good. It’s quite hard trying to find things to talk to a baby about all day, let alone using different and interesting words whilst you’re doing so; especially when massively sleep deprived. It would happily entertain Felicity for a good quarter of an hour if I put her in her bouncy chair and read Horton Hears a Who with a few elephant actions. It requires very little thought and got such a lovely response from her it was a great way to bond.

I’d love to hear any of your experiences of sharing rhymes or books with your very young babies. 

Reading with Felicity: very first books for newborns

Newborns can have books too!  You can start the book habit by exploring high contrast books with your newborn pretty much straight away. Black and white (and sometimes yellow) books have been one of my favourite presents for new babies for a few years now. Babies can only see these types of high contrast images initially, so black and white pictures are perfect for engaging their interest in the early days.

I knew all this in theory but I have to say I was amazed at how true it was and how early Felicity started responding to the high contrast books I’d bought for her. A lot of early books are partially black and white but the ones I bought specifically for this reason were:

First Touch: First Focus Cot Book– a fabric black, white and yellow book that can also double up as a cot bumper (although cot bumpers are not really recommended due to safety concerns so be aware of this!)

Black & White by Tana Hoban is a board book which opens up like a concertina of single images and can be propped up for baby to view. It folds up so you can also use it as a traditional board book for when the baby’s older or whilst out and about. I’d recommend this highly as the best of the many black and white board books available.

Looking at her favourite image from the cot book - the bee!

We started using both of these two fold out books almost from birth, propped up round the playmat. Felicity was examining the pictures intently from a few weeks old, clearly preferring some images to others by staring at them for a lot longer. I found it incredible she was showing such an interest when she couldn’t even smile at this stage. Will was mainly excited that, as an obsessive insect fan, her favourite pictures were of a butterfly and a bee!

Art for Baby: High-Contrast Images by Eleven Contemporary Artists to Explore with Your Child, is a more traditional big hardback book. Felicity definitely engaged with this but due to its size we’re starting to look at this more now she’s a bit bigger – it’s a bit tricky to get a newborn to sit and look at a big book. It will be interesting to see if she still responds to the pictures when she’s older or whether the lack of colour will put her off. Our copy arrived after I’d decorated the nursery but it came with a collection of prints of the artworks which would be a lovely (and cost effective) way to bring some modern art to a nursery.

Crinkly Book Of Aussie Animals: From The Nest by Jill Brailsford. This was a gift, brought all the way back from Australia. It’s a collection of illustrations of Australian birds with a few descriptive words alongside each one. I haven’t been able to find anything like this in the UK which is a shame as it is fantastic! I included it anyway as it’s such a good example of a first book. It’s made of that wonderful crinkly fabric babies just love and is small enough that it was one of the first things Felicity could hold. The fabric also makes it perfect to put on your chest do you can see how the baby is responding to it. It’s a perfect bridge between the fold out style newborn books and more traditional colourful picture and board books. The illustrations are lovely too! Please someone make something this good for the UK (and lucky you if you’re in Australia).

Felicity looking at From the Nest

I am definitely going to continue giving these books as newborn gifts as they are such a lovely way to start sharing books with your brand new baby. It’s also one of the first ways you can really see baby responding to something external, which is a lovely gift to be able to give any parent. I’d also really recommend parents-to-be investing in a few of these books, the examples I’ve given are the tip of the iceberg of what’s available. A lot are under five pounds as well, which, as any expecting parent can confirm, is a bargain compared to the cost of a lot of other ‘must have’ baby paraphernalia.

Happy high contrast book sharing!

*Apologies for only including Amazon links – they were the most reliable ones I could find